Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Maddy McCann

As I write, Madeleine McCann is still missing. Her abduction is a parent’s worst nightmare, and the attention given it has highlighted the pain that must be felt by innumerable parents in the developing world whose young ones are abducted for the purposes of slavery, war or worse.

It is when faced with such horrors that our initial instincts frame the question: “How could anyone believe in a loving God?” But I want to briefly and gently suggest that these horrors actually point in the other direction.

You see to ‘believe’ that there is no loving and so moral God has two particular consequences: The first is relativism, in which right and wrong, good and evil are simply what we (or today’s consensus) decide them to be. Assuming that there is no God to define or reveal absolute truth, morality is seen to be fluid. And at the very least this fosters a world where people are more ready to destroy the happiness of another for what “feels right” for them. The second is fatalism in which there is no acknowledgement of “right” at all. The infamous atheist Richard Dawkins recognises this, writing:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
The thing is, few if any, live as consistent relativists or fatalists. We instinctively recognise that there are goods and evils that should be good and evil for all people and all time. Indeed, we can’t live without this being the case to some extent. Moreover, we find ourselves rightly outraged at wickedness and provoked by injustice. Yet these feelings have little warrant in the universe of Dawkins, whereas they find an explicable source if there is a loving God in whose image we have been made.

Having said this, Christians are convinced that belief in such a God rests on a firmer foundation than our instincts: Jesus – a man who claimed to be God on earth and who verified that claim with the profundity of his teaching, the supremacy of his character and his ability to do what only God could. It was this Jesus who taught that there will be an ultimate accounting for every act we do, and this Jesus who displayed the deepest love by dying to enable those who follow him to be forgiven their own wrongdoing and enter a perfected world to come.

This is not to say that questions do not remain about why this loving God might allow Madeleine’s abduction - but it is to recognise that he will not allow such things forever. Can I reassure you then? There really is hope.